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Booker Prize shortlist dominated by debut authors

Posted September 15, 2020 10:43 a.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2020 11:04 a.m. EDT

The shortlist for the 2020 Booker Prize was announced Tuesday, and the list was dominated by Americans and debut novelists.

Perhaps most shocking were the omissions: Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light and Alex Pugsley's Aubrey McKee did not make the cut.

The six finalists for the prize, which comes with a monetary award of 50,000 pounds (about $64,000) and the promise of increased book sales are:

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook: "Margaret Atwood meets Miranda July in this wildly imaginative debut novel of a mother's battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change; A prescient and suspenseful book from the author of the acclaimed story collection, MAN V. NATURE."

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga: "In 'This Mournable Body', Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be."

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi: "Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds mother and daughter. Is Tara’s memory loss real? Are Antara’s memories fair? In vivid and visceral prose, Tibor Jones South Asia Prize–winning writer Avni Doshi tells a story, at once shocking and empathetic, about love and betrayal between a mother and a daughter. A journey into shifting memories, altering identities, and the subjective nature of truth, Burnt Sugar is a stunning and unforgettable debut."

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste: "Set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record. At its heart is orphaned maid Hirut, who finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. What follows is a heartrending and unputdownable exploration of what it means to be a woman at war."

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart: "Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor: "Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community."

All of the books referenced above are available with free shipping from Quail Ridge Books.

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